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Jordan Roth Is the Gay Fashion Icon We Deserve

Jordan Roth photographed by Sean Santiago.

Jordan Roth’s fashion sense, in a word, is fearless. Take one look at the Broadway titan’s glamorously curated Instagram (@jordan_roth) and you’ll notice his penchant for luxurious capes, crystallized couture, and chromas pushed to their extremes. He recently brought all of these loves together on the red carpet at the opening night of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, his latest production. Draped in a custom Zac Posen dark-as-midnight cape, gilded in crimson and glitzy baubles, Roth twirled in front of camera flashes, invoking the windmill described in the Parisian cabaret’s moniker while basking in yet another sartorial victory.

“Fashion is a daily opportunity to express myself, what I think, and how I feel at that moment,” Roth says. “Events like the Met, the Tonys, and opening nights [on Broadway] — the [selection] process is extended. It’s a longer period of exploration and creation, and there are many more collaborators on it, extraordinary artists that I have remarkable good fortune to collaborate with and be the beneficiary of their vision and mix my dreams with theirs, but the impulse is the same.”

Jordan Roth photographed by Sean Santiago.

For Roth, these moments aren’t simply about catching the observer’s eye; they’re about the story and the emotion stitched in the threads. After all, when he’s not running his empire as the president and majority owner of Jujamcyn Theaters — the third-largest theatre owner on Broadway — he’s producing some of the greatest stories ever told, like Angels In America, Kinky Boots, and Hadestown, all of which are currently running on Broadway. So with each outfit, he’s communicating who he is as a person and how he sees the world. “None of us are singular and I have found great meaning in evolving my looks from day to day and from season to season as I explore and expand my own personal possibilities and understanding of myself.”

Some of that understanding is translated in the audacious gender play the public has associated with him. Despite feeling deeply connected to the traditional glamour of legends like Katharine Hepburn, Lee Radziwill, and Gloria Vanderbilt — who he says all “offered very personalized and eternal intelligence and sense of style” — his own aesthetic eschews the binaries of femme and masculine. Though it’s been more apparent in recent years, Roth insists he’s always seen gender in a different way than many of his peers.

“The expression and understanding of my gender has been a lifetime exploration and a very painful one, particularly in the early days. Children can be mean, and in those years, it was decided that the worst thing you could be was not definitive in your expression of gender,” Roth explains. “That created a profound relationship for me with my body, and it’s surprising that my body is now where I feel my most powerful.”

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A bonus to this internal power Roth has accrued is the ensemble of fashion heavyweights that he’s gathered in his collaboration corner, like Vogue Men’s Editor Michael Philouze and Givenchy Artistic Director Clare Waight Keller. And on the star-studded night of the Moulin Rouge premiere in July, his enviable crew was comprised of close friends like Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Catherine Martin, and Posen. For the former, Roth’s unique approach to fashion is exhilarating.

“Jordan is the rare man who sees fashion not merely as a means of getting dressed, but as a way to tell stories — as performance,” Wintour says. “His enthusiasm and generosity spill over into everything he does, but what impresses me the most is what kind and loving parents he and his husband are to both of their sons.”

It’s unsurprising that Broadway, and maybe a little bit of fashion, led him to his husband, TV producer Richie Jackson. The would-be pair met during a commercial break at the Tonys in 2003. What started as a “business chat” led to a relationship. And 16 years later, they’re both juggling bustling careers while raising their children, 19-year-old Jackson Foo Wong (who is co-parented with actor B.D. Wong) and three-year-old Levi Roth.

“I will say the most profoundly romantic thing we do is raise a family,” Roth says. “My children are magical beings. I experience this daily blessing of helping them become themselves and through that, I get to understand and re-evaluate a little bit more about myself.”

Jordan Roth photographed by Sean Santiago.

Whether it’s sharing his family or his fashion with the world, Roth believes what he channels in his everyday life can present new possibilities for others, particularly LGBTQ+ folks. In his view, authenticity is key, and it’s something we can all inspire others to embody whether on a red carpet at a Broadway show, on social media to his scores of followers, or simply showing up in community spaces.

“I think the sheer act of showing ourselves securely in our communities is a blessing we can offer to each other. It’s a blessing we offer ourselves and a blessing we offer to each other,” Roth says with pride. “It’s so essential always, but especially right now, when it feels like so many of us are not being seen in our entirety and complexity, so I will keep showing myself and I will keep wanting to see you.”

This article appears in Out's 2019 Fashion Issue covered by Janet Mock and Dan Levy. The issue will be available on newsstands on October 1. To get an advanced look at the issue, preview other articles here, or view it on Apple News+, Kindle, Nook, and Zinio beginning September 24. Grab your copy by subscribing now.

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